Brahminy Kites Endangered in Indonesia

Brahminy kites, mostly seen in tall trees around the park, particularly along the Katingan and Sebangau rivers, are protected and an important part of the forest ecosystem. The peat and marshy forest provides abundant food for this hawk species, in the form of various small mammals and fish. The birds of prey can even consume young macaques and proboscis monkeys.

One of the threats to the birds’ existence is illegal logging, which destroys the ecosystem and causes the extinction of certain other hawks in the conservation area, as nearly all such species build their nests in soaring trees. The same is true of yearly fires in Central Kalimantan’s peat land. “While their smoke is hazardous to birds, lots of small mammals that are the hawks’ prey are endangered,” said Tatang Suwardi.

Fortunately, locals still follow the cultural wisdom of letting the birds live in the wild. “Nobody has hunted hawks as they have become part of community life,” said Sangen Tawung, a Dayak resident of Petak Bahandang, Tasik Payawan district. He lamented the felling of towering trees by some locals and outsiders for their wood. “Hawks’ nests are discovered in these sorts of trees,” he said.

Brahminy kites are protected by a government regulation. Causing damage to their nests, disturbing their habitat or and their ecosystem carry heavy penalties.

In nature, the birds’ distribution covers Sumatra and Kalimantan. In Java and Bali, brahminy kites are very rare and yet the Jakarta administration has made this species Jakarta’s mascot because it is so rares. Flocks of these kites can only be seen on the Thousands Islands and Rambut Island Wildlife Reserve off North Jakarta.

The habitat of the hawks, locally called elang bondol, is around marshes, lakes, coastlines and areas to the height of 3,000 meters. Physically, an adult brahminy kite is about 45 centimeters long. It has typically white feathers on the head, neck and chest, with brown ones on the wings, back, abdomen and tail.

As a whole, the existence of brahminy kites in the wild is highly endangered as a result of their damaged habitats and illegal hunting for trade. In wild animal markets like those Jatinegara and Pramuka, East Jakarta, an adult hawk can be bought for just Rp 200,000 and a young one for Rp 150,000.

Bambang Parlupi